British woman arrested for tweeting

Escalating a Twitter argument from the screen to the reality of the front door is an action designed to elicit fear from those who would otherwise speak up

Joseph Fang Toronto Ontario

In the UK, on the front lines of the transgender debate, activist and trans-rights advocate Stephanie Hayden has found a new weapon in the war against misgendering, deadnaming, and improper pronoun use: the police.

As reported recently by the Daily Mail, Kate Scottow was arrested at her home on December 1st for having “deadnamed” Hayden on Twitter. Scottow's account, which she shared over the weekend on controversial UK parenting site mumsnet, tells a harrowing story of being arrested at her home, in front of her kids, and placed in a police holding cell for several hours awaiting questioning.

The reason this came to light now was that Scottow still hasn't received her phone and laptop back, both confiscated by police at the time she was apprehended. Prior to reporting Scottow, Hayden had made complaints against comedy legend Graham Linehan in September 2018, also over remarks made he made on Twitter.

With this “innovative” strategy, Hayden managed to sic the real life police on those with whom she disagreed online. Hayden received Twitter support from her online community and hate from her detractors, just as Scottow and Linehan did when they were taken to task for their remarks.

The idea that just one person could cause this much mayhem is a tribute to UK laws such as the Malicious Communications Act 1988—this makes a "provision for the punishment of persons who send or deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress and anxiety." It was the Malicious Communications Act that Hayden cited on Twitter, as a reason for reporting Scottow.

The malicious communication for which Hayden reported Scottow was entirely about the self-ID debate happening in the UK, wherein those who believe themselves to be of an opposing gender can say they are actually that gender, and change all of their official documentation, from birth certificates to driving licenses, to reflect that.

This concept, of course, is absurd. Changing names and gender designations on government documents cannot erase a lived past, and cannot alter reality. And it is precisely this invocation of reality for which Scottow was punished, held for questioning, and her property confiscated. She dared to say that Hayden was not a woman, and that Hayden had a past before the transition to Stephanie.

While Hayden believes that Scottow's remarks were designed to cause "distress and anxiety," per the Malicious Communications Act, it seems that a more reasonable explanation would be to believe that Scottow was attempting to thwart acquiescence to a law that will contribute to female erasure in the UK. And what was Hayden's rational for invoking the law and getting the big, bad authorities involved? Did she really feel that Scottow was a danger to her mental well-being? And if so, why not just block her, as so many women screaming about the biological essentialism of sex differences have been blocked before?

Escalating a Twitter argument from the screen to the reality of the front door is an action designed to elicit fear from those who would otherwise speak up. Hayden's practice is akin to the practice of swatting, where online gamers were reported as dangerous to their local police by malicious viewers so that that they could watch a Swat team storm the gamers’ homes on a live stream.

The unwitting police believed that they were acting on a valid tip, and used the full force of their resources in an attempt to protect the community and themselves. And Hayden basically played them like fools.

It is telling that as Western societies give more power to government authorities, we call on those authorities to settle our own petty issues and grievances instead of either sorting it out amongst ourselves or letting it go entirely.

If this form of legal swatting is to be the next weapon in the arsenal of intersectional rights, then police departments really ought to think about whether or not that's how they wish their manpower and resources to be deployed.

The tool of a police intervention is not without its risks, and employing it to quiet women and moms who demand that their lived experience in their own bodies be acknowledged as extant, and separate from the male lived experience is serious overkill.

This embarrassing debacle leads us to ask if trans activists need the police to violently convince everyone to believe that men and women can legitimately change sexes, or shut up about it, then is this really a winnable argument? Espousing a view under threat of penalty for not doing so is not a win for the opinion spouted, but a win for authoritarianism alone.


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